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Ivy League cancels basketball tournament over coronavirus concerns

With March Madness set to come to Tampa’s Amalie Arena next week, this is a story worth monitoring.

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As Tampa Bay gears up for a jam-packed sports schedule over the next month, here’s something to note: The Ivy League has canceled its upcoming basketball tournaments because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The conference made the decision to cancel the games in Boston “in accordance with the guidance of public health and medical professionals to discourage and limit large gatherings on campuses in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.”

“We understand and share the disappointment with student-athletes, coaches and fans who will not be able to participate in these tournaments,” Ivy League executive director Robin Harris said in a statement. “Regrettably, the information and recommendations presented to us from public health authorities and medical professionals have convinced us that this is the most prudent decision.”

The decision does not have an immediate local impact. Yale was the men’s basketball champion during the regular season and earns the league’s spot in the NCAA tournament … which has first- and second-round games coming to Amalie Arena next week.

So far, NCAA officials have said that they’re monitoring the virus but have not yet made any changes to the tournament. An advisory panel has been in regular contact with government agencies about the outbreak. The NCAA said in a statement Tuesday that no local or federal health officials have advised against holding sporting events.

But if one league is scrapping its conference tournament because of the virus, and some colleges (including Florida) think they will have to rely more on virtual education soon, it’s not hard to envision March Madness having to make some changes (like playing games without crowds) because of the outbreak.

To be clear, the NCAA has not yet announced anything like this. But if — if — that announcement comes, the Ivy League’s decision will look like a tipping point.

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